When Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the illustrious Caldecott medal back in 2008 I was more than surprised. Judging by size alone, I couldn’t understand how a book nearly 550 pages long--many picture books are under 32 pages—even made it into the category with the other traditional picture books. The judges had somehow been hoodwinked!” (I must stop here and state that I have been known to be A. over reactive and irrational at times and B. a bit of a book snob—the latter was the reason I didn’t read any of the Harry Potter series until after the 6th book came out. Big REGRET!)
Fast forward the clock to now, the book has been turned into a movie (done by Martin Scorsese no less!) and the kids are asking for it again…and, well, I thought it was high time that I read it. And you know what. I liked it. I stayed up until 12:30a.m. this morning to finish reading it because I just had to see how things came together and I kept getting urged on by page after page of beautiful artwork which made me feel not only like I was peering into a mystery, but also that I had the flipbook version of a movie reel. The artwork was gorgeous; the story of Hugo and his automaton interesting; the secrets of all the characters well veiled until the right moment; Selznick’s addition of real stills from old movies into the book—it was all wonderful!
I found out after I finished reading the book (info in the back!) that the character of Papa Georges was based on real-life Frenchman, Georges Méliès. (Selznick called him the father of science-fiction movies in his Amazon exclusive interview).
So, maybe I made a mistake. Maybe if I’d just read the Association for Library Service to Children’s definition of a picture book earlier I would have realized why Selznick’s book was worthy of the honor.
“A “picture book for children” as distinguished from other books with illustrations, is one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a collective unity of story-line, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which the book is comprised.” –Association for Library Service to Children